Title:
Grout placement apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The grout placement apparatus has a V-shaped hopper with a flexible-bladed auger mounted therein that can be rotated in both forward and reverse directions by an auger motor. The auger has flexible blades to drive the grout material along the bottom of the hopper to a discharge sleeve that extends from the hopper. Coupled to the discharge sleeve is a discharge assembly having a flow control valve that is automatically opened and closed by the forward and reverse rotation of the auger, respectively. The discharge assembly is hingedly movable with respect to the hopper, allowing the discharge assembly to “swing away” from its operating position against the discharge sleeve to a position that uncovers the discharge sleeve for easy cleaning. A flexible discharge conduit or hose coupled to the discharge assembly conveys the grout material to the desired placement location. The rotation of the auger can be remotely controlled by a wireless remote controller, and the auger motor can be powered by the hydraulics of separate lifting equipment or by a dedicated combustion engine mounted on the placement apparatus.



Inventors:
Vandewinckel, Stephen C. (Livonia, NY, US)
Varel, Edward A. (W. Henrietta, NY, US)
Rock, Jeffrey M. (Livonia, NY, US)
Leaty, Brian R. (Honeoye, NY, US)
Application Number:
12/230543
Publication Date:
03/04/2010
Filing Date:
08/29/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
222/168, 222/412
International Classes:
E04G21/20
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MAUST, TIMOTHY LEWIS
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Jacobson, Holman Pllc (400 SEVENTH STREET N.W., SUITE 600, WASHINGTON, DC, 20004, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A grout placement apparatus for placing grout material at a desired delivery site, comprising: a hopper for holding grout material and including a discharge sleeve that extends outwardly from a front wall of the hopper; an auger mounted within the hopper and rotatable in a forward direction to move the grout material out of the hopper through the discharge sleeve; a discharge assembly pivotally associated with the front wall and movable between a locked position adjacent the front wall in which said discharge assembly communicates with the discharge sleeve, and a swing out position away from the front wall in which the discharge sleeve is fully uncovered; and a discharge conduit coupled to the discharge assembly for directing the grout material to the desired delivery site in response to positive displacement generated by forward rotation of the auger.

2. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein the auger is further configured to be rotatable in a rearward direction.

3. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 2, wherein the auger is driven by an auger motor that is powered by the power-take-off hydraulics of a piece of loading equipment supporting the apparatus.

4. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 2, wherein said apparatus includes a dedicated gasoline-powered engine mounted thereon and the auger is driven by an auger motor that is powered by said engine.

5. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 2, wherein said discharge assembly includes a flow control valve that is automatically opened and closed when the auger is rotated forwardly and rearwardly, respectively.

6. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 5, wherein said flow control valve includes a flapper valve coupled to a hydraulic cylinder.

7. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said hopper is mounted on a hopper support frame that allows the hopper to rotate 360° and to be locked in four different positions.

8. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 3, further comprising a radio frequency remote control system by which the auger can be made to rotate both forwardly and rearwardly by an operator at a position remote from the piece of loading equipment.

9. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein the auger has flexible blades.

10. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said hopper has a pair of straight opposed sidewalls angled outwardly with respect to one another to form an included angle of less than about 90°.

11. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said hopper includes opposed sidewalls joining the front wall to a rear wall, upper edges of said hopper walls including inwardly angled splash guards.

12. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 1, wherein said discharge assembly includes a housing having at least one grate with openings for air to flow into and out of said housing.

13. A grout placement apparatus for placing grout material at a desired delivery site, comprising: a hopper for holding grout material and including a discharge sleeve that extends outwardly from a front wall of the hopper; an auger mounted within the hopper and rotatable to move the grout material out of the hopper through a discharge opening; a discharge assembly for receiving grout material moved through said discharge opening by forward rotation of the auger, said discharge assembly including a flow control valve that automatically opens and closes said discharge opening in response to changes in rotational direction of the auger; and a discharge conduit coupled to the discharge assembly for directing the grout material to the desired delivery site in response to the positive displacement generated by forward rotation of the auger.

14. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 13, wherein said auger is rotatable in both forward and rearward directions.

15. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 14, wherein said flow control valve is automatically opened when the auger rotates in the forward direction and is automatically closed when the auger rotates in the rearward direction.

16. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 15, wherein said flow control valve includes a flapper valve coupled to a hydraulic cylinder.

17. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 13, wherein said discharge assembly is pivotally associated with the front wall and movable between a locked position adjacent the front wall in which the discharge assembly communicates with the discharge opening and a swing out position away from the front wall in which the discharge opening is uncovered.

18. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 13, wherein the auger is driven by an auger motor that is powered by the power-take-off hydraulics of a piece of loading equipment supporting the apparatus.

19. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 17, further comprising a radio frequency remote control system by which the auger can be made to rotate both forwardly and rearwardly by an operator at a position remote from the piece of loading equipment.

20. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 13, wherein said apparatus includes a dedicated gasoline-powered engine mounted thereon and the auger is driven by an auger motor that is powered by said engine.

21. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 20, wherein said hopper includes a lifting bail mounted therein to lift the apparatus using a crane.

22. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 13, wherein said hopper has a pair of straight opposed sidewalls angled outwardly with respect to one another to form an included angle of less than about 90°.

23. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 13, wherein said hopper includes opposed sidewalls joining the front wall to a rear wall, upper edges of said hopper walls including inwardly angled splash guards.

24. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 13, wherein said discharge assembly includes a housing having at least one grate with openings for air to flow into and out of said housing.

25. A grout placement apparatus for placing grout material at a desired delivery site, comprising: a hopper having a discharge opening and including front and rear walls joined by a pair of straight opposed sidewalls that are angled outwardly relative to one another to form a V-shaped grout holding area, said sidewalls extending without angle change from an upper edge of said sidewalls to a curved trough at a bottom of said hopper; a drive mechanism operative in said trough to move the grout material out of the hopper through said discharge opening; and a discharge assembly and conduit associated with the hopper to receive the grout material passing through the discharge opening and direct the grout material to the desired delivery site.

26. The grout placement apparatus as set forth in claim 25, wherein said sidewalls are angled outwardly with respect to one another to form an included angle of less than about 90°.

27. The grout delivery apparatus as set forth in claim 25, wherein upper edges of said walls include inwardly angled splash guards.

28. A grout placement apparatus for placing grout material at a desired delivery site, comprising: a hopper having a plurality of walls that form a grout holding area, said walls including a front wall with a discharge opening; a drive mechanism to move the grout material out of the grout holding area through said discharge opening therein; a discharge assembly associated with the front wall to receive grout material passing through the discharge opening and having a housing with at least one apertured grate for allowing air to flow into and out of said housing to prevent clogging of said grout material during use of said apparatus; and a discharge conduit coupled to the discharge assembly for directing the grout material to the desired delivery site.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention is related to the field of construction and, more particularly, to an apparatus including a hopper with an auger for placing grout, mortar and similar fluent materials in block walls, foundations and the like at construction job sites.

2. Description of the Related Art

In the construction field, machines are typically used to pour grout, mortar or slurry concrete into forms or hollow walls. Such machines generally have a hopper with a tube in which an auger is rotatably mounted. Mortar or concrete slurry is poured into the hopper and then moved through the tube to a discharge hose by rotating the auger.

Many grouting applications require that the machines be lifted to an elevated location, such as the top of a concrete block wall. Accordingly, the machines are often designed to be mounted on a forklift or similar front end loading equipment and are driven by the power-take-off (PTO) hydraulics of the loading equipment. Hence, the operator of the loading equipment, in positioning the grouting machine, is also responsible for controlling activation of the auger while another person controls placement of the hose to direct the slurry to the desired location. Once properly positioned, the hose operator must signal the loading equipment operator, such as by hand signals, to activate and deactivate the auger. This can be problemmatic, particularly when the hose operator and the loading equipment operator are not in view of one another such as, for example, when the point of material discharge is elevated relative to the loading equipment operator or behind a wall.

When deactivation of the auger is necessary, this communication problem is exacerbated by the fact that delay in stopping the auger can result in wasted mortar or slurry concrete as the hose continues to discharge material, and extra work necessitated to clean up of the excess material. The hose operator may try to kink the hose or stop the flow in some other manner, but this is not always effective given the weight of the hose when filled with material which make the hose difficult to handle. One solution to this problem is set forth in U.S. Pat. No. 7,152,762 which discloses a control valve having a pair of arms that externally clamp onto the hose to stop or limit the flow of fluent material. U.S. Pat. No. 6,206,249 (“the '249 patent”) seeks to facilitate the stoppage of flow through the use of rigid auger blades that are spaced from the tube wall within which the auger rotates. The gap between the blades and the tube wall reduces the build up of pressure between the interior of the hopper and the interior passage of the hose so that, when the hose is pinched closed, the grout material does not continue to flow due to the pressure differential. The design of the '249 patent has reduced efficiency, however, as the gap allows grout material to accumulate between the auger and the hopper, which wastes grout material and can lead to clogging.

Finally, slurry concrete, mortar and grout are materials that can be corrosive and are difficult to remove from surfaces once they have dried. As a result, grouting machines must be cleaned promptly and on a regular basis in order to prevent jamming of the moving parts and obstruction of the discharge lines. Such cleaning typically requires disassembly of the machine, a process that is time consuming and which can result in the loss of components such as fastening elements during the time between disassembly, cleaning and reassembly.

Accordingly, a need exists for a grout placement machine that overcomes the foregoing difficulties and which is reliable and sturdy in operation, can be manufactured at a reasonable cost, and will be easy to use at the construction job site and to clean thereafter.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In view of the foregoing, the present invention is directed to a grout placement apparatus for placing grout, mortar and similar fluent materials in block walls, foundations and the like at construction job sites. For ease of reference, the general term “grout material” will be used herein to refer to any fluent material used in construction including mortar, slurry concrete, all types of fluid masonry material that dry to provide structural support. The term “grout material” is also intended to include other fluent materials that may not harden, as the grout placement apparatus described herein could be effectively used with these materials as well.

The grout placement apparatus according to the present invention has a generally V-shaped hopper with an auger in the trough of the V-shape which can be rotated in both forward and reverse directions by an auger motor. According to one embodiment referred to specifically hereinafter as “the PTO grout apparatus”, the auger motor is powered by the PTO hydraulics of the loading equipment, such as a forklift, for supporting the apparatus. In an alternate embodiment referred to specifically hereinafter as “the gas-powered grout apparatus”, the apparatus includes its own gasoline-powered engine to independently drive the hydraulic system of the apparatus. The indicated terminology will be used herein when one or the other of the embodiments is being addressed individually, as appropriate in those situations when the two embodiments present structural and/or operational distinctions. However, in most instances, the general phrase “grout placement apparatus” will be used and is intended to refer to both embodiments as they share many common features.

The V-shaped hopper has straight sidewalls that connect with a curved or generally cylindrical trough having a radius approximating the radius of the auger blades. When properly angled, the straight sidewalls promote a smooth, uninterrupted flow of grout material to the auger. The upper edges of the hopper walls preferably have inwardly angled flanges or splash guards to minimize material loss from the top of the hopper.

The auger has flexible blades and is mounted so that the curved blades contact the trough or bottom of the hopper. This structure promotes self-cleaning and efficient flow, and minimizes the amount of grout material remaining on the bottom of the hopper when work is completed. Forward rotation of the auger moves the grout material along the bottom of the hopper toward and through a discharge sleeve that extends from the front of the hopper. Coupled to the discharge sleeve is a discharge assembly having a flow control valve that is automatically opened and closed by the forward and reverse rotation of the auger, respectively. A flexible discharge conduit or hose coupled to the discharge assembly conveys the grout material from the hopper to the desired placement location when the flow control valve is open.

The discharge assembly includes a housing that is hingedly mounted to the hopper, allowing a “swing away” movement of the discharge assembly from its operating position, in which the housing is locked against the discharge sleeve of the hopper, to the “swing away” position away from the hopper. With the discharge assembly in the swing away position, easy access is provided to the discharge sleeve of the hopper for both cleaning and examination thereof, as necessary.

The housing of the discharge assembly is further provided with rinse-out grates on the front and top thereof which allow the housing to be cleaned without disassembly thereof. The grates also enable air to freely flow into and out of the housing which prevents the possibility of a vapor lock condition inside the discharge assembly and/or discharge hose which could result in clogging, thereby promoting the free flow of grout material through the grout delivery apparatus and increasing the overall efficiency of the apparatus.

To facilitate servicing of the apparatus, the auger is removable from the hopper. In the PTO grout apparatus, the auger can be removed through the top of the hopper while the gas-powered grout apparatus allows the auger to be removed through the hopper discharge sleeve.

For optimal coverage when placing the grout material, the present invention further includes a hopper support frame which allows the hopper to rotate 360° on roller bearings. A three-position lock controls the position of the hopper on the support frame, allowing it to turn 360° for cleaning and filling, turn 180° for grout placement, and lock in four different positions.

The grout placement apparatus according to the present invention also has a radio-frequency (wireless) remote control capability by which activation of the auger can be controlled by the hose operator at the point of grout material placement, rather than by the loading equipment operator. This allows for more precise timing and accuracy in starting and stopping the flow of grout material, reducing waste and the possible confusion associated with the use of hand signals to communicate with the loading equipment operator.

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a grout placement apparatus having a discharge assembly that is pivotally mounted to swing away from the hopper so as to provide easy access to the discharge sleeve of the hopper.

Another object of the present invention to provide a grout placement apparatus in accordance with the preceding object in which the discharge assembly includes a flow control valve that is automatically opened and closed by forward and reverse rotation of the auger, respectively.

A further object of the present invention to provide a grout placement apparatus in accordance with the preceding objects in which the discharge assembly housing is provided with one or more rinse-out grates that promote the free flow of grout material through the housing and into the discharge conduit, avoids clogging and also facilitates cleaning of the housing by eliminating the need for disassembly thereof.

Yet a further object of the present invention is to provide a grout placement apparatus with a hopper having an auger that is driven by the PTO hydraulics of a piece of loading equipment and which can be removed from the top of the hopper.

A still further object of the present invention is to provide a grout placement apparatus with a hopper having an auger that is driven by a dedicated gas-powered engine.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a grout placement apparatus in accordance with the preceding objects in which the apparatus has a hopper with straight sidewalls that connect with a curved or generally cylindrical bottom or trough having a radius approximating the radius of the auger blades to form a continuous V-shape that promotes smooth uninterrupted flow of grout material to the auger.

Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a grout placement apparatus in accordance with the preceding objects in which the auger has flexible blades that effectively self-clean the bottom or trough of the hopper through their contact therewith, providing efficient discharge from the hopper and minimizing the cleaning burden as well as grout material waste.

Still another object of the present invention is to provide a grout placement apparatus in accordance with the preceding objects in which the upper edges of the hopper walls have inwardly directed splash guards to mimimize grout material loss through the top of the hopper.

A still further object of the present invention is to provide a grout placement apparatus in accordance with the preceding objects in which the hopper can be rotated 360° and locked in various positions.

Yet a further object of the present invention is to provide a grout placement apparatus carried by a piece of loading equipment and having an auger that can be remotely activated and deactivated by an individual other than the loading equipment operator, such as the person placing the grout material placement and delivery hose used to convey the grout material from the hopper to the desired placement site.

An additional object of the present invention is to provide a grout placement apparatus in accordance with the preceding objects that will conform to conventional forms of manufacture, be of relatively simple construction and easy to use and clean so as to provide an apparatus that will be economically feasible, long lasting, durable in service, relatively trouble free in operation, and a general improvement in the art.

These together with other objects and advantages which will become subsequently apparent reside in the details of construction and operation as more fully hereinafter described and claimed, reference being had to the accompanying drawings forming a part hereof, wherein like numerals refer to like parts throughout.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view from the discharge or front end of a grout placement apparatus in accordance with a first embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view from the motor or rear end of the grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a side view of the grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a front view of the grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a detailed side and partial cross-sectional view of the grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a side cross-sectional view of the grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 7 is an exploded rear perspective view illustrating various components of the hopper of the grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 8 is an exploded front perspective view illustrating the hopper upper support frame of the grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 9 is an exploded rear perspective view illustrating the hopper lower support frame of the grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 10 is a cutaway side view of the auger as mounted in the hopper of the grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 11 is a cutaway side view of the hopper and auger shown in FIG. 10, illustrating a first step in removal of the auger from the grout placement apparatus.

FIG. 12 is a cutaway side view of the hopper and auger shown in FIG. 11, illustrating a second step in removal of the auger from the grout placement apparatus.

FIG. 13 is an exploded view of the discharge sleeve and discharge assembly of the grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 14 is a perspective view of an alternate configuration of the grout placement apparatus of FIG. 1 in which a clamp-style locking mechanism is used to secure the discharge assembly in the locked position, shown with the discharge assembly in the swing-away position.

FIG. 15 is a schematic drawing illustrating a manual control embodiment of a hydraulic control system for the PTO grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 16 is a schematic drawing illustrating a piping layout for the hydraulic control system shown in FIG. 15.

FIG. 17 is an exploded view of the remote control components for use with a remote control embodiment of a hydraulic control system for the grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 18 is a schematic drawing illustrating the hydraulic circuit for the remote control embodiment of the PTO grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 19 is a schematic drawing illustrating an electrical circuit for the radio frequency remote control system shown in FIG. 18.

FIG. 20 is a perspective view from the discharge or front end of a grout placement apparatus in accordance with a second embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 21 is an exploded view of various components of the discharge assembly of the grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 20.

FIG. 22 is a perspective view of the grout placement apparatus of FIG. 20, shown with the discharge assembly in the swing-away position.

FIG. 23 is an exploded perspective view illustrating various components of the hopper of the grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 20.

FIG. 24 is a schematic drawing illustrating a gas-powered hydraulic control system for the grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 20.

FIG. 25 is a schematic drawing illustrating a piping layout for the hydraulic control system shown in FIG. 24.

FIG. 26 is a schematic drawing illustrating an electrical circuit for the gas-powered grout placement apparatus shown in FIG. 20.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

In describing a preferred embodiment of the invention illustrated in the drawings, specific terminology will be resorted to for the sake of clarity. However, the invention is not intended to be limited to the specific terms so selected, and it is to be understood that each specific term includes all technical equivalents which operate in a similar manner to accomplish a similar purpose.

As shown in FIGS. 1-6, a first preferred embodiment of a grout placement apparatus according to the present invention is generally designated by reference numeral 10. The apparatus includes a hopper 20 with a hopper discharge sleeve 22, a hopper support frame generally designated by reference numeral 24, an auger 26 mounted within the bottom or trough of the hopper (see FIG. 6), a swing-away discharge assembly generally designated by reference numeral 30, and a discharge conduit generally designated by reference numeral 33 including a hose 120.

The hopper 20, shown in isolation and from the rear in FIG. 7, has a front wall 40 and a rear wall 90 that are generally parallel with one another, and two opposing sidewalls 36 joining the front and rear walls 40, 90 to form a grout holding area, generally designated by reference numeral 35, with a rectangular open top generally designated by reference numeral 34. The opposed sidewalls 36 converge downwardly in a V-shape into a curved bottom or trough 38. The hopper discharge sleeve 22 is fitted at the forward end of the curved bottom 38 and extends out past the hopper front wall 40 (see FIG. 5).

The sidewalls 36 of the hopper 20 are angled to minimize grout material build up and to direct the grout material flow toward the auger 26 in the curved bottom 38. The sidewalls themselves are straight, i.e., they have no angular changes from their upper edges 37 to the bottom 38. The straight configuration of the sidewalls, and their continuous slope from top to bottom of the sidewalls, and their continuous slope from top to bottom promotes the smooth uninterrupted flow of grout material toward the bottom 38 of the hopper. The angle of each sidewall is preferably no more than 45° from the vertical, to form an included angle between the sidewalls of about 90°. Within this range, a preferred angle of each sidewall 36 is about 35°, to form an included angle of about 70°.

The upper edges of the sidewalls 36 are preferably provided with inwardly angled flanges or splash guards 42 that help to prevent loss of the grout material from the top of the hopper during transport of the grout placement apparatus. These splash guards 42 are also provided on the upper edges of the front and rear hopper walls 40, 90 so that the entire hopper opening is configured to prevent inadvertent spillage of the grout material.

The hopper 20 is removably mounted on the hopper support frame 24 which allows the hopper to be replaced with a similar or different capacity hopper as needed. As shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, the hopper support frame includes an upper frame, generally designated by reference numeral 44, and a lower frame, generally designated by reference numeral 46. The upper frame 44 includes a base platform 48 having two pairs of upwardly depending support arms generally designated by reference numeral 50 that are angled outwardly to correspond with the angles of sidewalls of the hopper 20, i.e., no more than about 45° from vertical, preferably about 35°, to form an included angle between the sidewalls of no more than about 90°, preferably about 70°. Each pair of arms 50 includes a front arm 51, 52 and a rear arm 53, 54 that are joined by generally planar opposed mounting plates 55, 56, each having elongated apertures 58 that receive fastening elements 59. The arms and mounting plates form a cradle generally designated by reference numeral 60 therebetween that receives the hopper 20. The elongated apertures 58 in the mounting plates 55, 56 allow for adjustable positioning of the fastening elements 59 used to secure the hopper in the cradle 60.

Mounted to the right front arm 52 is a hinge support arm 62 that extends forwardly from the arm 52 as shown in FIG. 8. The hinge support arm 62 is pivotally connected to an articulating element 64 that couples the upper frame 44 or the hopper 20 to the discharge assembly 30, as will be described more fully hereinafter.

The upper frame 44 is rotatably supported on the lower frame 46 by a pivot 66 mounted within an aperture 68 in the center of the base plate 48. The bottom 70 of the pivot is positioned within an upwardly extending tubular boss 72 mounted on the base element 74 of the lower frame 46 and is suitably held in place by plate 75 (see FIGS. 5 and 6). Extending outwardly from the tubular boss 72 are a plurality of horizontally directed arms 76 that are preferably evenly spaced from one another and which include heavy duty roller bearings 78 suitably mounted adjacent the distal ends of arms 76. The base plate 48 of the upper frame 44 and base element 74 of the lower frame 46 are generally parallel with one another and are held in a spaced relationship from one another by the pivot 66, tubular boss 72 and roller bearings 78. The arms 76 include associated pivot stops 80 that are configured to allow the upper frame 44 with the hopper 20 attached thereto to be locked into various rotational positions. According to a preferred embodiment, the hopper 20 can swivel 360° and can lock in four different positions.

As shown in FIG. 9, the lower frame 46 is fixedly mounted on a pair of parallel forklift-receiving box beams 82 that are configured to receive the forks of a conventional forklift that can support the entire grout placement apparatus in a manner known in the art.

The outwardly extending hopper discharge sleeve 22 is configured as a tube that communicates with the discharge or forward end 84 of the auger 26 as shown in FIGS. 6 and 10. The distance to which the forward end 84 of the auger extends into the discharge sleeve 22 is sufficient so that the auger is self-supported in the sleeve, eliminating the need for a support bushing or the like for the auger forward end 84. The rear end 86 of the auger 26 is connected to a coupling 88 extending through the rear wall 90 of the hopper and is connected to and supported by the auger motor 92 (see FIG. 6). The auger motor 92 is preferably covered by a protective cowling 94 as shown in FIG. 10.

In the PTO grout placement apparatus, the discharge sleeve 22 is relatively short in length, extending only about 9.75 inches. The forward end 84 of the auger 26 does not extend through the discharge sleeve 22 nor into the discharge assembly 30. Rather, the discharge sleeve 22 has a diameter that is only slightly smaller than the diameter of auger 26. The closeness of these two diameters allows the auger forward end 84 to be supported in the sleeve 22 without a bushing and to be removed easily through the top of the hopper.

The sequence by which the auger is removed is illustrated in FIGS. 11 and 12 after the discharge assembly 30 has been moved to its swing-out position (and is not shown in FIGS. 11 and 12). As shown, the auger 26 is moved forwardly into the discharge sleeve 22 until the rear end 86 of the auger is freed from the coupling 88, as shown in FIG. 11. This movement is made possible by the size of the sleeve 22 and the flexibility of the auger blades 27. The rear end 86 of the auger 26 may then be drawn upwardly to remove the auger from the hopper, as shown in FIG. 12.

The auger 26 is mounted so as to be in contact with the bottom 38 of the hopper 20. While this is not immediately apparent from the drawings as set forth in FIGS. 6, 10 and 11, the spacing shown is the result of the curved nature of the bottom of the hopper. The auger has flexible blades or flighting 27 and is to Thiessen. Such an auger is commercially available from Talet Equipment International of Strathmore, Alberta, Canada. The flexibility of the blades 27 prevents binding of the auger 26 and provides superior flow control and efficiency since the blades effectively sweep and self-clean the bottom 38 of the hopper to discharge material from the hopper while leaving minimal residual grout material therein.

The positive displacement generated by the blades 27 from the forward rotation of the auger 26 pushes the grout material through the hopper discharge sleeve 22 and into the discharge assembly 30 shown in FIG. 13. The discharge assembly 30 includes a housing 100 having a hinge support arm 102 mounted thereto (see FIGS. 1 and 8). The housing hinge support arm 102 is coupled by pivot pin 103 to the opposite end of the same articulating element 64 shown in FIG. 8 that is pivotally connected by pivot pin 63 to the hinge support arm 62 on the upper frame support 44. As mounted on the hinge support arms 62, 102 and articulating element 64, the discharge assembly 30 is able to swing outwardly from a locked position adjacent to the front wall 40 of the hopper 20 and against the outlet end of the discharge sleeve 22, to a swing-away position away from the hopper such as that shown in FIG. 14.

When pivoted to the locked position (see FIG. 1), the discharge assembly 30 is secured to the front wall 40 or to the discharge sleeve 22 using any known locking mechanism as would be understood by persons of ordinary skill in the art. In the first embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-4 and 13, a T-handle generally designated by reference numeral 108 is provided for this purpose. FIG. 14, on the other hand, illustrates an alternate configuration of the first embodiment in which a clamp-style locking mechanism 206 mounted on the side of the discharge sleeve 22 is used. (The clamp 206 is shown in greater detail in FIG. 21 which pertains to the second, gas-powered, embodiment of the grout placement apparatus, as will be discussed hereinafter.) In the alternate configuration of FIG. 14, the hinge support 62 is coupled to the hopper 20 rather than to the upper frame 44.

In both the first embodiment of FIGS. 1-4 and 13, and the alternate configuration thereof shown in FIG. 14, the discharge assembly 30 includes a face plate 85 with a circular cutout 91 which mates with the circular distal end 93 of the discharge sleeve 22 and forms a sealed flow communication with the discharge sleeve opening 95 (see FIG. 14), when the discharge assembly 30 is in the locked position. Positioned in the lower portion of face plate 85 opposite cutout 91 is an inlet tube 87 which extends into the housing 100 and cooperates with a flapper-type control valve, generally designated by reference numeral 110, within the discharge assembly 30.

The top and front of the housing 100 are provided with rinse-out grates 104, 106, best seen in FIGS. 1 and 13. The rinse-out grates have openings 105 that provide air flow into and out of the housing to prevent a vacuum-lock condition in the discharge assembly or the upper part of the hose 120 as might otherwise occur if the housing formed a fully sealed enclosure. With the equalization of pressure, the grout material flows freely through the housing and into the hose 120 without clogging, thereby increasing the efficiency of the apparatus.

When the discharge assembly 30 is in the swing-out position, the discharge sleeve 22 is readily accessible and can be cleaned and/or inspected. The face plate 85 and inlet tube 87 can also be easily cleaned. The rinse-out grates 104, 106 also allow for more effective cleaning of the inside of the housing 100, allowing water to be directed therein through the openings 105 without having to disassemble the housing.

For use of the apparatus, the discharge assembly 30 is pivoted to the locked position adjacent the front wall 40 and against the discharge sleeve 22 of the hopper where it is secured to the front wall 40 or to the discharge sleeve 22 using the T-handle 108, clamp 206 or any other fastening mechanism suitable for this purpose as has already been noted. When the discharge assembly 30 is in the locked position, it is automatically aligned with the auger 26 and sleeve 22 as described above.

The PTO grout placement apparatus can be operated in one of two modes, a manual mode and an optional radio frequency (wireless) remote control mode. When operating in the manual mode, the hydraulic control system of the apparatus is connected to the hydraulic quick coupling connectors on the forklift or other loading equipment supporting the apparatus. The forklift operator then initiates the starting and stopping of the auger in response to hand signals received from the hose operator. A schematic drawing of the hydraulic connections when operating in the manual control mode is provided in FIG. 15, and a piping layout thereof is set forth in FIG. 16. A manifold 250, which is connected to the PTO 252 of the loading equipment (the PTO not being a part of the present invention) is directly coupled to the drive motor 92 which drives the auger 26. The motor 92 is also coupled through hydraulic hoses 256, 257 to a valve hydraulic cylinder 116, which operates the flapper-type control valve 110.

The control valve 110 is fitted within the discharge assembly 30 and both seals the hopper 20 and stops the flow of grout material by closing off the exit opening 115 of inlet tube 87 (see FIG. 13). The valve 110 includes the closing flap 112 supported on a lever arm 113 pivotally mounted on an axle 114 (see FIGS. 5, 6 and 13). The flap 112 and lever arm 113 are operated by valve hydraulic cylinder 116 tied into the hydraulic circuit of the grout placement apparatus 10 as above described. In the manual mode shown in FIG. 15, a hydraulic manifold 250 controls the pressure and flow of the hydraulic fluid to the valve hydraulic cylinder 116. When the auger 26 is rotated in a forward direction by hydraulic auger motor 92 to move grout material out of the hopper, through sleeve 22 and inlet tube 87 and into housing 100, the valve hydraulic cylinder 116 is retracted to automatically rotate the lever arm 113 upwardly about the axle 114 and open the flapper valve 112 away from the outlet 115 of the inlet tube 87. To discontinue flow of grout material, the forward rotation of the auger is discontinued and then temporarily reversed by the hydraulic controls of the auger drive motor 92. In response, the valve hydraulic cylinder 116 is extended to automatically rotate lever arm 113 downwardly and cause the flapper valve 112 to close over the outlet 115 of inlet tube 87 and preclude any material from exiting the hopper.

As shown in FIG. 1, the hose 120 of the discharge conduit 32 delivers the grout material to the desired location by the positive rotation of the flexible bladed auger 26. The hose 120 is preferably flexible but could, in some cases, be a rigid tube or pipe-like conduit. The hose 120 preferably has a handle 124 to assist in directing the grout material to the desired location.

To facilitate more precise control of the auger rotation, the PTO grout placement apparatus 10 is configured to alternatively operate in a remote control mode. According to a preferred embodiment, a remote radio frequency system, such as that shown in FIG. 17 and generally designated by reference numeral 130, allows the hose operator to control the flow of material at the point of delivery by providing inputs to a hand-held remote controller 132. The remote controller 132 is preferably provided with separate buttons or comparable input elements for forward and reverse rotation of the auger 26. Radio frequency signals transmitted from the remote controller 132 are received by a receiver unit 134 suitably mounted on the grout placement apparatus and powered by a battery 136 held within a battery box 137 and cover 138; according to one embodiment, the remote control receiver unit 134 is mounted at storage location 57 on the support frame 24 (see FIG. 1).

Remote-controlled operation improves the accuracy of grout material placement, reduces waste caused by overflow, and eliminates the potential for confusion in hand signals otherwise used to signal the loading equipment operator to start and stop the auger. The RF controller can also be bypassed to transfer control of the auger 26 back to the operator of the loading equipment.

According to a preferred embodiment, the remote controller 132 is configured to provide momentary control, i.e., when the forward or reverse button is depressed, the auger is turned on but, as soon as the button is released, the auger stops. A schematic drawing illustrating the hydraulic control system for the remote control embodiment is set forth in FIG. 18. An electrical circuit for this embodiment is provided in FIG. 19. As shown, the receiver 134 is coupled to a battery 136 through a switch battery isolator 262. The switch battery isolator 262 allows the receiver 134 to be turned on and off, conserving power when the receiver 134 and remote controller 132 are not being used.

A second embodiment of the present invention, namely the gas-powered grout placement apparatus noted earlier, is illustrated in FIGS. 20-23 and generally designated by the reference numeral 300. Components that are common with the PTO grout placement apparatus will not be discussed again to avoid unnecessary repetition. Components serving the same purpose but having different dimensions are identified by the same numbers but preceded by the digit “3”.

The gas-powered grout placement apparatus 300 has, as the name implies, its own gasoline powered engine 200 which is supported on a bracket 202 above the discharge sleeve 322 and preferably covered with a cowling 204 as shown in FIG. 20. To provide sufficient length to support the engine, the discharge sleeve 322 is longer than in the PTO embodiment, extending outwardly from the hopper front wall 340 about 22.28 inches. Due to this longer length, the auger cannot be removed from the top of the hopper 320 but instead is removed, if necessary, through the hopper discharge sleeve 322, after the discharge assembly 330 has been moved to its swing-away position.

As in the alternate configuration of the first embodiment, the discharge assembly 330 is secured to the hopper 320 using a clamp 206 as shown in FIGS. 21 and 22. In the swing-out position shown in FIG. 23, the discharge sleeve 322 is exposed for cleaning and inspection as in the first embodiment including the alternate configuration thereof.

As best shown in FIG. 23, the gas-powered grout placement apparatus 300 can be configured to include a lifting bail 210 mounted within the hopper 320. The bail 210 has a handle or lifteye 212 to allow the apparatus to be picked up by a crane or other lifting apparatus. When using the bail 210, the delivery hose is preferably positioned to the desired delivery location using the hook pivot of the crane and not the pivoting capability of the hopper.

Since the gas-powered grout placement apparatus 300 does not operate off of the PTO of the loading equipment, the hydraulic connections are different from those of the PTO grout placement apparatus 10. A representative schematic is set forth in FIG. 24 and includes the engine 200, hydraulic gear pump 270 and hydraulic tank 272; a piping layout of the hydraulics is shown in FIG. 25.

Given the placement of the auger motor on the back side of the hopper, the gas-powered grout placement apparatus 300 shown in FIGS. 20 and 22 is operable only remotely. An electrical schematic for remote operation of the gas-powered grout placement apparatus is shown in FIG. 26. To protect against loss or separation from the apparatus, the remote controller 3132 is preferably secured to the apparatus 300 by a tether 221 while, as in the PTO embodiment, the receiver 3134 is secured at a storage location 357 on the support frame 324. The second embodiment also includes a lanyard configuration (not shown) in which the remote controller is secured with the receiver 3134 at the storage location 357. Alternatively, suitable connections and wiring could be established to allow the gas-powered placement apparatus 300 to be controlled with a wired remote controller, preferably by the operator positioning the grout delivery hose.

The foregoing descriptions and drawings should be considered as illustrative only of the principles of the invention. The invention may be configured in a variety of shapes and sizes and is not limited by the dimensions of the preferred embodiment. Numerous applications of the present invention will readily occur to those skilled in the art. For example, the device as described herein may be used in contexts other than construction, being equally applicable to other services in which the placement of a material that can be conveyed with an auger and delivered through a conduit is required. Therefore, it is not desired to limit the invention to the specific examples disclosed or the exact construction and operation shown and described. Rather, all suitable modifications and equivalents may be resorted to, falling within the scope of the invention.